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First World War sailor honoured 100 years after death

09 May 2016

The rededication of the grave and headstone of Able Seaman (AB) Harry Gasson will take place on the centenary of his death on May 31, 2016 at 11am at Esbjerg New Cemetery, Denmark.

AB Gasson served on HMS Castor and was killed during the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916. The rededication of his headstone will be presided over by Navy Chaplain The Reverend David Simpson.

AB Gasson's body was recovered about two nautical miles off Grey Deep on 25 September 1916 and buried as a British Seaman of the Great War Known Unto God five days later on 30 September 1916.

The Battle of Jutland involved some 250 ships and 100,000 men. This battle off Denmark's North Sea Coast was the only major naval engagement of the First World War.

HMS Castor was the flagship for the 11th Flotilla Squadron led by Commodore James Hawksley. The official history states: "At 20:11 hrs, the 11th Flotilla led by Commodore Hawksley, on board Castor spotted German Destroyers to his NWN and turned to attack, supported by the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron. They had found not destroyers but the main German battle line".

The 11th Flotilla was spotted by the German ships. The Germans approached and used the response to the British challenge signal that they had seen used earlier. This meant that they were able to approach much closer than usual. At about a one mile range, the German ships switched on the searchlights and opened fire. HMS Castor returned fire, and she and two of her destroyers (Marne and Magic), each fired one torpedo at the German ships. This exchange lasted for five minutes before both sides turned away. Some of the other destroyers reported that they were unable to see the enemy because of glare from Castor's guns, while others believed there had been some mistake and this was actually friendly fire. Castor received 10 hits, killing 10 people and injuring several more. One of those killed was AB Gasson.

The service on 31 May is being organised by the MOD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, part of Defence Business Services, with support from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Esbjerg is a major port on the west coast of Jutland and the Esbjerg New Cemetery contains one Commonwealth war grave.